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Obama to discuss al Qaeda, drones, Guantanamo Bay in Thursday speech

U.S. President Barack Obama steps aboard Air Force one at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, May 19, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed
U.S. President Barack Obama steps aboard Air Force one at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, May 19, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed

By Steve Holland

ATLANTA (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, under fire for security lapses at a U.S. mission in Libya, will in a speech on Thursday lay out his wide-ranging counter-terrorism policy, from the controversial use of drones to efforts to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Obama's use of military drone aircraft to attack extremists has drawn fire and increased tensions in countries like Pakistan and been criticized by human rights activists in the United States.

His inability to follow through on a 2008 campaign pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay prison has been dramatized by a hunger strike among many of the terrorism suspects being held there.

And the resurgence in recent weeks of questions surrounding the deaths of U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in an attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, last year has put Obama on the defensive.

In his State of the Union speech early this year Obama pledged to work with Congress to make certain that the U.S. targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorism suspects was consistent with U.S. law.

A White House official said Obama would address these issues in a speech on Thursday at the National Defense University in Washington. He will say that al Qaeda has been significantly degraded but remains a threat, along with its affiliates, the official said on condition of anonymity.

"He will review the state of the threats we face, particularly as al Qaeda's core has weakened but new dangers have emerged," said the official.

Obama also will discuss the policy and legal framework under which the United States acts against terrorism threats, including the use of drones.

"He will review our detention policy and efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and he will frame the future of our efforts against al Qaeda, its affiliates and adherents," the official said.

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Paul Simao)

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